There's no visible unifying trend to the 1990-91 dance season, but it promises to be a whopping and lively barrage of events all the same, rather evenly balanced between the traditional and familiar, and the new or offbeat.
The celebration of anniversaries will furnish some especially vivifying sparks. For Dance Place -- the hub of creative ferment hereabouts -- this year marks a 10th anniversary, to be highlighted at season's opening by an exciting, month-long "New Dance U.S.A." festival. For the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS), one of the city's staunchest dance supporters, it's a 25th birthday; among its upcoming offerings will be the return in October of prodigious Wunderkind Mark Morris (in the "Dance America" series cosponsored by the Kennedy Center) and a particularly stimulating "New Performance" series that will include the area premiere, next March, of Bill T. Jones's much-heralded "The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin" (a co-presentation with District Curators and George Washington University).
Of exceptional interest among the Kennedy Center's dance offerings will be the long-awaited return of Britain's Royal Ballet in March, and the Washington debut of Japan's Matsuyama Ballet, which will perform, starting in late January, both "Mandala" -- a contemporary Japanese ballet about a Buddhist painter who falls in love with a Christian girl -- and "Giselle."
On the Kennedy Center's ballet series this year will be the Washington Ballet, which for the first time will present all three of its regular seasonal programs at the center -- in October at the Opera House, just before its first tour of the Soviet Union; in February at the Eisenhower; and in May at the Terrace.
A major new factor on the dance scene will be George Mason University's soon-to-open Center for the Arts, whose 2,000-seat Concert Hall will play host to four major dance attractions, starting in February with Canada's Desrosiers Dance Theatre and including the Martha Graham Dance Company the following month.
Not least among the unusual features of the new season will be local emanations of the nationwide, year-long Festival of Indonesia, which will have its official kickoff in a multimedia gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House Sept. 16; a number of related events will take place elsewhere, including a "Feast of Javanese Music and Dance" at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium in November.
The San Francisco Ballet leads off the Kennedy Center ballet series, with a week's stay at the Opera House in October that will include the company's new production of "The Sleeping Beauty," and ballets by, among others, James Kudelka and William Forsythe. Later that month, the Washington Ballet performs two programs -- an all-Choo-San Goh evening,and a mixed bill featuring the company premiere of Fernand Nault's "Carmina Burana." American Ballet Theatre returns in January with a new production of "Coppelia"; completing the series will be the Royal Ballet and, in late March, the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Also to be presented by the Kennedy Center will be the Royal Cambodian Dancers, this month at the Terrace, and a new edition of "Washington, Front & Center!" next May.
"Dance America" commences with the vivid Urban Bush Women troupe this month at the Terrace, performing its evening-length "Praise House," commissioned by WPAS and a number of other presenters across the country. The series continues in October with the Monnaie Dance Group/Mark Morris, in programs including a new Morris opus and both sets of his "Love Song Waltzes"; Washington's Sharon Wyrrick and her Full Circle troupe in November, with a new work commissioned by WPAS; and then, in the new year, American Ballroom Theater, the Erick Hawkins Dance Company and a venturesome dance collective called ISO (I'm So Optimistic).
The WPAS "New Performance" series leads off in November with performance artist John Kelly at Dance Place, followed by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Co. in March at Lisner, Guillermo Gomez-Pena in "1990" at GALA Hispanic Theatre in April and Rinde Eckert at Dance Place in early June, all of these co-presentations. In still other series and venues, WPAS will present such diverse attractions as Norway's Bresee Dance Company, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Dance Brazil, a joint program by Washington troupes KanKouran and Odadaa!, Africa Oye, and Lezginka, a troupe from the U.S.S.R.'s Daghestan.
For its February program, the Washington Ballet will perform a premiere by Ray Barra as well as works by Nils Christe and Goh. Its May program will consist of new ballets by Rex Bickmore, Alonzo King, Monica Levy and Martine van Hamel. American Ballet Theatre principal Kevin McKenzie is now listed on the Washington Ballet company roster as a permanent guest artist. The troupe's annual "Nutcracker" will be given 20 performances at Lisner Auditorium starting Dec. 14. This season the company will also perform a Baltimore series at Goucher College in October, March and May.
The "New Dance U.S.A." festival that launches the Dance Place season begins Tuesday with three programs highlighting area dancers and choreographers under the rubric "The Washingtonians." The festival continues for a month on successive weekends with performances by Randy Warshaw & Company, Stephan Koplowitz & Company, and Marta Renzi & Project Company; a special festival event will be a free performance at Union Station Oct. 11 featuring Renzi, Koplowitz and Washington's Liz Lerman and Djimo Kouyate, with his Mamaya troupe. Further down the line at Dance Place, among its virtually nonstop weekend programs, will come India's Astad Deboo, new editions of the annual Black History Month celebration and Dance Africa, and, in April, a pair of weekends devoted to a "Percussive City Dance" festival (cosponsored by WPAS) featuring resident and visiting artists, including precocious tap master Savion Glover, the D.C. Rhythm Ensemble, the Spanish Dance Society, the Fiddle Puppet Cloggers, Stewart Carrera and Anita Feldman.
There will be especially strong dance series this season at Mount Vernon College; Prince George's Publick Playhouse; McLean's Alden Theatre; and Montgomery College, Rockville, where the attractions will include "Stars of the Soviet Ballet" in October, and Bulgaria's Pirin troupe and the Jose Greco Company in January.
George Mason University's inaugural Center for the Arts season will include, as well as the Desrosiers troupe and Martha Graham, the Miami City Ballet and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, both in April. The university's dance department, in addition, will present its regular annual series at the Harris Theatre featuring its own resident company and the Claudia Murphey Dance Company, as well as New York's Susan Marshall & Company in April.
The Improvisations Unlimited troupe, based at the University of Maryland and led by Artistic Director Meriam Rosen, will be featuring new works created for it by Stephanie Skura in its October program, and by Ping Chong in March.
Further afield, it's worth keeping an eye on the high-level dance series presented annually at the Baltimore Museum of Art ("Dance on the Edge" series) and Richmond's Virginia Museum, which this season will present, among other attractions, the company of gifted Flemish choreographer Wim Vanderkeybus in February, and a combined program by Odadaa! and an Afro-Puerto Rican troupe, los Pleneros de la 21, in February. Of special note too will be the programs by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in its new Maryland residence project at Baltimore's Mechanic Theatre in January, and the annual series of programs by the Richmond Ballet in its home city.